And there is social media. At first there was a cacophony of noise that was hard to follow. But then those designing social media tools got smarter, and social media became more focused and personalized through tagging, lists, and other filters. The noise was reduced and meaningful communication and instant participation enabled. It empowered the individual who had a story to tell with the tools to proclaim their news to the world. But still, some traditional, mainstream media organizations failed to respond. And the audience moved away and found a new home in their preferred social networking space, where they met like-minded individuals and formed communities. Those bonds grew. Individuals who were once loan voices—sometimes heard, often ignored—became recognized. Based on the quality of the content they produced they began to gain followers through peer group recommendation. Those followers responded, added value to what was being said, and shared the information with their contacts. And with smart tagging, it all went viral. They lost touch with their audience.
And as this happened, a new middle media, made up of informed bloggers and social networkers, began to develop. These were individuals who wrote and broadcast with authority, not because they were paid to do so, but because they had knowledge and a passion that they wanted to share with the world. Gradually, networks began to be built; experts linking their skills and sharing information. At the same time—in some newsrooms—tired, lifeless professional journalists were rewriting news releases and handouts, or copy/pasting the news wires, publishing and broadcasting the resulting content and pretending it was journalism.
The traditional, mainstream media organizations that get it right are those that have formulated a social media strategy based on taking note of changing audience behavior. For many, social media is now a central part of the newsgathering, news production and news distribution strategy. They have joined the global social media conversation and contribute to that conversation. They ask questions and answer questions, and the content they produce contains audience input which the audience trusts and, because it is about the issues that concern them, they comment, add value and share. Because of that, the media landscape will never be the same again. Traditional media that fails to recognize and respond to this ongoing change is probably doomed. However, the continued growth of social media could awaken those traditional media houses that have failed in their duty to inform the public debate. It could signal the end of copy/paste journalism and result in a flourishing of vibrant people-focused journalism. Social media could go down in history as having been the resuscitator that jolted mainstream media back to life.